I was born Eva Marie Ann Cagley in Waterloo, Iowa at Saint – Francis Hospital on January 11th, 1958, to Frank and Priscilla Cagley. My Mother was a beautiful woman. Her hair was dark brownish auburn and thick about shoulder length. Her face, as smooth as a baby’s cheeks. She had the prettiest blue eyes that could melt any heart like caramel on apples. Mom’s figure was like Marilyn Monroe’s even after already having eight children.
Her mouth petite, with barely a top lip like mine. She remained beautiful up to the time she passed -away at the age of seventy-two. Mom had a hard life raising us nine children and did the best job she could. I admire her for the strong woman she was and for holding the family together through good times and bad.
She told me she and dad married at the age of seventeen and kept it a secret from their parents until she started showing she was pregnant with Jerry, my oldest brother. I can’t imagine how hard that would have been. My emotions would have been running wild like a lion.
Dad was a handsome man himself with black wavy hair and tall as an ear of field corn. People often said he looked like Shawn Connery later in life. With his beard and mustache. He too is gone now at the age of eighty. He could be a hard man but later in life I found out he spent time at a Boy’s Ranch in Oregon and I often find myself wondering what that must have been like for him. Alone and away from family. My two oldest brothers Jerry and Bobby have passed on as well. Jerry died of a rare disease that made his lungs like leather. Jerry was five years older than me. Bobby just four years older than me passed from colon cancer that got into his lymph nodes!
Mom always told me my first name was Eva Marie and my middle name was Ann. However, on my birth certificate, it says my first name is Eva and my middle name is Marie Ann. To this day I go by Eva Marie as my first name. I find it more poetic.
Mom said I was almost born in the doctor’s car as she couldn’t get ahold of Dad because he was out of town. She went into Labor, so her Doctor Buckles came to pick her up. When mom went into labor, she always had us kids right away. We barely made it into the hospital and onto the delivery table when I started coming out. Dad arrived at the hospital just a little late. It was winter and there was a snowstorm mom was lucky Dr. Buckles came to pick her up. He left his patients at the office to do so. Driving in a blizzard with white-out conditions on the roads. She said he had the best bedside manner. He delivered all nine of us, children. He knew when mom said we were coming that we were on our way.
He remained my doctor all throughout my childhood. Although we didn’t go to the doctor very much. It was too expensive, and when we were hurt dad would tell us to stop crying like a baby, and that the only thing that hurt was our pride. Or stop crying before I give you something to cry about. Not that I knew what that meant back then. I just knew if we got hurt mom was the one to go to and she’d bandage us up.
I grew up in a small town called Maywood in Iowa until I was in third grade which made me about nine. The population at that time was around fifteen hundred to two thousand. I don’t recall any memories earlier than second grade. In fact, I can’t even remember being held on my mom’s or dad’s lap. Surly I was but I just don’t remember. I had a short pixie haircut back then and my hair was light brown. I was short and built like a small thin stick. I was born with blonde hair, but it changed to a darker brown as I got older.
The house we lived in used to be a garage that my parents made into a home. A very, small house for a family with eight children. At that time there were eight of us, two girls and six boys. From oldest to youngest, Jerry, Robert (but we called him Bobby,) Theresa, Frank, Me- Eva Marie, Rory, Kurt, and Patrick. Darcy wasn’t born yet. Mom’s name was Priscilla, but she went by Pat or Percy. Dads’ name was Ray Frank, but he went by Frank. I was the middle child. Middle of the girls and middle of the whole family. I often went unnoticed by almost everyone.
We didn’t have a T.V. back then but we had a radio and we played outside all the time. We would listen to Art Linkletter, The Lone Ranger, Bing Cosby, and Rosemary Clooney Show, Have Gun will travel, and Gun Smoke Shows along with the News. I can remember us all huddled together to listen to the radio programs in the exceedingly small yellow candle-lit room, we had for our dining/living room. There was a small kitchen as you came in the front door from outside then the living space which consisted of a small wooden table with eight chairs and just two bedrooms. That was the whole house. The outside of the house still looked like a garage with windows. The siding was white and peeling from wear in the boiling sun. The bedroom space was added onto the back of the garage. The house sat on a double size lot and had a small barn on one lot that we kept the horses in. More like a wooden open shelter that we called a barn with only half a gray shingled roof on it.
We had running cold water in the house, a wood-burning stove, and a refrigerator. No other appliances. With little counter space that I can remember. Mom used an old wringer gray metal wash tub that sat outside and an outside, clothesline to dry our clothes which was a never-ending job. We wore each other’s hand-me-downs as Mom couldn’t afford to buy us all new clothes. I got my sister’s, but I didn’t mind as she kept her clothes nice. I was the tomboy not her. I don’t remember her playing outside much. I loved playing hide and seek back then even though I was It all the time and couldn’t find anyone.
It was cool we walked to school and on weekends in the park they had crafts we’d go and do. Like building things with popsicle sticks glued together. I remember spending my summers in that park making crafts. You won’t find that nowadays either. It was only about a six-block walk to get there. There were a lot of green apple trees,’ along the way so we picked apples and ate them all the time. In the neighbors’ yards. To this day I love green apples not so much for the crisp sour taste with salt on them but for the memories that go with them. I especially loved the caramel apples mom used to make out of them.
There was an outdoor movie theater back then called Sky View Theater, we’d sneak in under the fence, play on the swing sets, and watch the cartoons. Like the Tom and Jerry, Bullwinkle and Rocky, Micky Mouse, and Popeye, The Jetsons, and Deputy Dog cartoons that came on before the shows before it got too dark.
I can tell you I swung so high on the swings I could almost touch the indigo star-lit night. We giggled and ran around chasing each other right in front of that huge outdoor screen. It was only about a six-block walk from our house. The theater isn’t there anymore. In fact, around Waterloo, there are no more theaters. They have become almost obsolete. In the state of Iowa now there are only five operating Drive-In, theaters. The closest one being in Newton Iowa called the Valle Drive-In. Which is eighty- seven plus some miles from Waterloo where I now live. It is the oldest drive-in which opened up in 1948.
In the winter it was so freezing walking to school as Mom and Dad couldn’t afford to buy mittens for us, we wore snow white- long socks on our hands. My sister Theresa froze her hands once walking to school and now she has crippling arthritis in both hands. Her fingers look like a twisted tree limb. She begged my brother Jerry to let her warm her hands in his pockets, but he wouldn’t. I don’t have any idea how much Mittens cost back then but she had eight of us to buy for and back then they didn’t have Human Services or food stamps. We would make hard-packed snowballs and have snowball fights. Often soaking those socks making our hands freeze more.
They did give out cheese and milk products though. We often drank powdered milk that mom would chill in the refrigerator overnight first. It Taste’ like skim milk does today only water down. “Yuck,” to this day I can’t stand skim milk. I would just as well spit it out all over the floor than drink that watery-tasting milk.
We lived by a huge hill that we took our sleds and slid down which consisted of an old metal Pepsi sign Dad had picked up somewhere. I remember train tracks at the bottom of the hill and always being scared to death that a train would be coming when we slid down. But there never was. It was so close to our house that when it went by at night you could hear the loud screeching sound on the tracks which often kept me awake half the night.
We made giant snow forts out of enormous snowballs we rolled. We were lucky to have coats back then coming from a family of nine children, much fewer snow pants. However, we didn’t notice as we were throwing snowballs at each other from behind our forts. Man, that would hurt like a shot in the arm when you got hurt.
The wind was cold and frigid, and our faces became beet red, and our noses started drizzling and freezing up. We used to pick long pointed ice cycles off the house and eat them too. We didn’t even worry if they were dirty. To us, it was like eating a pop-cycle, like the one’s mom use to make out of green Kool-Aid. It was clear and cold and would freeze our tongues. Almost to the point of our tongues being stuck to the ice. How I long for those bygone days.
We had horses back then and I knew how to ride them, we would ride to school and the gas station to get candy. It was fun riding them while feeling the hot sun upon my back and the warm breeze slapping my petite face. I don’t remember their names except for Big Red. He stood half the size of the house. The deepest red color like an apple and as mellow as a newborn kitten. His hair was sleek and combed with his mane was long and silky like a Siamese cat. I had an old black and white polaroid with me on him once but not sure where it got off to. I had to ride him with my brothers as I was too small back then to ride alone. After all, I was short for my youthful age of nine. To this day I’m only five feet two inches. Short like my mother who was only five feet. Almost short enough to be considered a midget.
Living in Maywood, we didn’t have a bathroom inside we had an outdoor toilet. Oh, how I hated to go outside into the dark with a flashlight. I swear things crawled all over at night. I was sure there would be a snake or a spider in the outhouse. Slowly I would open the creaking wooded door. Shining my flashlight onto the stool to look for bugs. Brushing some off occasionally, I would sit down on the ice-cold lid that reeked of manure like a hog pen. The opening of the stool looked like a dark abandoned cave and spooky it seemed large, and I always held myself up with my hands in order not to fall in. Falling in scared me more than anything. Once done I would close the wooden lid and run as fast as I could to the safety of my room. I hated it when I would forget to bring the toilet paper, I would have to make a mad dash into the house and back out in the pitch-black night. I’d say about twenty-five feet from the house. I don’t know of any out-houses nowadays except the ones in the parks and I abhor those to this very day.
Mom gave us baths in old gray metal wash tubs with tall legs outside. She had to heat the water up as there was no running hot water inside. I remember being in the tub in only my underwear and as I got older it began to bother me. Someone might see me. But it always felt good when mom would take the towel to dry me off and ruffle my hair, while feeling the hot sun beating on me. I’d scurry getting dressed to start my day off. In the winter Mom would give us sponge baths.
We had only one bedroom, so we had bunk beds three beds high, and we all shared a room. I slept on the bottom, and I use to put my feet up on the bed above and push up to bounce the person above me. Which was my older sister (of three years) Theresa. I’d giggle so often tears would come out of my eyes. She loved having her long silky brown hair brushed so I use to climb up on her bunk and brush her long hair for her one hundred strokes in each spot. She loved that and it was an every-night occurrence. I thought she looked a lot like dad back then with her beautiful blue eyes and rounded face. Her smile was contagious, and I envied her as my mouth was ridiculously small and my lips were hardly visible. Hers was full and beautiful. I had my mother’s lips. She has dad’s but to this day she says she looks like her mother.
Dad had the darkest brown eyes that could hypnotize you. However, when he got mad, I could see red flames coming out of them and sweat on his creased eyebrows. His hair was Black and well-trimmed at the time. He was a tall man about six’2 and slender. He worked for Sears and Roebuck company as a Display Manager. He worked his way up from Maintenance. Mom worked at a bar in town for a family friend it was called Park Avenue Tap. His name was Bob, but we all called him by his nickname ‘Woody.’ They both worked all the time and a friend by the name of Sue use to babysit us. But mostly we ran the neighborhood. Playing outside until dark. I don’t remember having homework back then. I went to Maywood elementary school, which was about a half-mile walk. Sometimes we rode our horses to school and other times we walked.
I used to get scared of the dark so I would go into mom and dad’s room and sleep with them. One night I heard footsteps, my father was gone on a business trip. Everyone else was sleeping in their beds. I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. I finally mustered up enough courage to make a mad dash into my parent’s room. Where my mother was sleeping peacefully. I woke her up jumping in bed. Next thing I knew she was telling me to “shush up.” She barely whispered it to me. I glanced up towards the door and saw a shadow of a man. Quickly I buried my head into the pillow under the blanket. The next morning mom told me no one was in the house. But to this day I believe there was. Or it was just listening to too many of those spooky stories my brothers were always telling about bloody bones and bloody teeth at your door. They loved to terrorize me with those stories. I would put my hands over my ears and hum so I couldn’t hear them. To this day I’m afraid of the dark. I thought they were mean back then. So, I played mostly with my friend Linda.
I had measles once and had to stay inside. As the sun was too bright to be in with the measles. At least that’s what Mom said. I would stare out the window and watch the kids play and I was frowning because I had to stay inside. I had spots and sores all over me. “Ugg,” mom, told me to quit scratching or I’d end up with scars. I didn’t feel sick, and I just wanted to go out and play with the rest of the kids, who were playing jump rope, and Double Dutch, but Mom was having none of that.
I had a best friend named Linda and we played together all the time. She just lived across the rocky narrow alley behind us. Mom would let me go to her house. Linda had long reddish-brown hair and was a stick back then just like me only taller. We both belonged to the Brownies, and we had big cookouts in this big out- door pitch- black cast iron kettle. I earned cool badges, and it was a blast. I cried when we moved to the farm knowing I wouldn’t see my best friend Linda anymore.
© Eva Marie Ann Cagley
Thanks Dennis for publishing my Life story. It is my hope by bringing things out of seclusion I hope I to help someone deal with a similar situation